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Artistic visions inspired by 'Star Wars'

A dangerous Han Solo awaits trouble in "Shadows of Tatooine" by Raymond Swanland. From "Star Wars Art: Visions" (Abrams, $40)
A dangerous Han Solo awaits trouble in "Shadows of Tatooine" by Raymond Swanland. From "Star Wars Art: Visions" (Abrams, $40) Copyright Lucasfilm / MCT

Anyone who thinks "Star Wars" is restricted to six movies, comic books and animated cartoons is missing the pervasive influence it's had on popular culture since 1977. When filmmaker George Lucas asked artists from around the world for their take on his creation, most leapt at the chance.

The result is "Star Wars Art: Visions" with a foreword by Lucas and introduced by J. W. Rinzler, an executive editor at Lucasfilm.

"I was sitting there working on another "Star Wars" book, and he (Lucas) just turned to me and said 'I have this idea,'" says Rinzler.

Many of the artists cut their teeth on fantasy book covers, comic books, trading cards and videogames. Some are graphic artists whose designs come from Asian influences, computer anime, or nineteenth-century painting. They tap into the depth of Lucas' mythology to create their own visions of his worlds.

Here, the evil bounty hunter Boba Fett of "Return of the Jedi" becomes a warrior on a griffin. Yoda sits next to Kermit, the frog. Darth Vader's helmet is fused to a hot rod.

Classically trained artist Paul G. Oxborough paints George Lucas as the bartender in the center of the Cantina bar scene from "Star Wars," keeping a careful eye on the patrons.

"Visions" images aren't defined by the "Star Wars" saga. The artists stepped out of that world into ours.

In "The Stuff that Dreams are made of" by Peter Ferk, a tabletop of carelessly dropped "Star Wars" toys including the Millennium Falcon and a Star Destroyer, and an orange blaster gun, are jumbled on a tabletop draped in a classic "Star Wars" tablecloth. The toys are from a grandfather's generation _ those who saw it in 1977 could be grandparents today _ carefully saved for the amusement of their children and children's children.

In David Nestler's delightful "Double Cheeseburger with a Side of Crumb" Lucas' "American Graffiti" is mixed with "Return of the Jedi." The knowing waitress at Mel's drive-in balances on air jets with the mischievous Salacious Crumb, a hamburger, French fries and a Coke on her platter. A Tatooine dewback is tied up outside, waiting for its rider.

In this collection, the hits far outweigh the misses. Among the latter, the "Queen Amidala in a Giant Tree" by Mikimoto could be any anime heroine. An exquisitely dressed woman and threatening beast, in Arantzazu Martinez's "Rancor" could be the cover of any fantasy book if you lose the light-saber half-buried in the sand.

Insight is offered by the artists' commentaries at the end.

For example, in "Shadows of Tatooine," Han Solo stands in the shadows, blaster pistol drawn, expecting trouble, as dangerous a renegade as any you'd find in a spaceport's back alley. The artist, Raymond Swanland, "imagined myself as a wayfaring artist determined to show the people back home the wonder and danger of distant lands."

In "Vader's Dream" by Kirk Reinert, "Vader is dreaming of himself as Anakin, a fallen knight, in the arms of (his lost wife) Padme. ... The dark side, sensing the presence and threat of the light, sends its minions to pull Anakin/Vader back into chaos and madness."

Lucas bought more than 60 percent of the original artwork, according to Rinzler, and they are likely to be displayed at the various Lucasfilm offices.

A special $400 limited edition, with 40 more paintings and 50 pages on the artists' processes and sketches, will be available. It will include five hand-signed high quality prints by artists Alex Ross, Moebius, Donato Giancola, Daniel Greene and Jamie Wyeth.

Some of the paintings are available as prints through Acme Archives.

About "Visions," Rinzler says, "We start these things ... you don't really know how they are going to turn out, and that one turned out very nicely.___

"Star Wars Art: Visions," foreword by George Lucas, introduction by J.W. Rinzler; Abrams Books, New York (176 pages, $40)___

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